Press briefing by the Hon. Minister of information and culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, on the 2016 National Festival of Arts and Culture (NAFEST), at the Minister’s conference room in Abuja on Thursday, Sept. 29th 2016

Alh. Lai Mohammed


Gentlemen of the press, good afternoon and welcome to this press briefing which is intended to inform stakeholders on the level of preparedness for the 2016 National Festival of Arts and Culture, better known as NAFEST, as well as to solicit your assistance in informing and mobilizing the general public for the festival

2. NAFEST is organized by the National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC), and the 2016 NAFEST will mark the 29th edition of the festival that began in 1970 after the Nigerian civil war. The event started off as the Unity Festival, since it was part of efforts to reunite the country after the 30-month internecine war. There is no doubt that over the years, the festival, which later became known as the National Festival of Arts and Culture, has helped tremendously in bring us closer as a people. The festival has succeeded in re-awakening our consciousness and drive to leverage on the abundant potentials in the cultural industries for youth empowerment and wealth creation in which Nigeria has comparative advantage.

3. Today, some 46 years after the civil war, the festival is more relevant than ever. There is an urgent need to bring us closer together as a people, amid widening divisions along ethnic, religious and social lines. The fact that contingents from different parts of the country come together annually, irrespective of their ethnicity or religion, to showcase their arts and culture and leverage on their comparative advantage is very healthy for our country.

4. It is however very noteworthy that the festival has evolved from being an instrument of unity to being a platform to help raise the level of economic activities in the country. This is reflected in the theme of this year’s festival: EXPLORING THE GOLDMINE INHERENT IN THE NIGERIAN CREATIVE INDUSTRIES. The theme is geared towards using our various cultural products and expressions to develop a creative economy and, at the same time, promote the patronage of Made-in-Nigeria products.

5. Indeed, festivals around the world are moving from just being a forum to showcase arts and culture to becoming a tool for economic growth. Creative industries are becoming creative economies. More and more people are moving from manufacturing concerns to creative concerns, and no country wants to be left behind. This is why this Administration has included the creative industries, as well as tourism, among the core areas for the diversification of the economy away from oil.

6. On our part, as a Ministry, we have intensified actions to make our festivals economically viable. This we are doing by increasing the capacity of our festival managers through training and retraining, and mapping the various arts and culture festivals across the country. In this regard, we are working with local and international partners, including the British Council – with which we have just signed an MoU, and the Tony Elumelu Foundation, with which we plan to also sign an MoU next week.

7. Towards actualizing the theme of this year’s NAFEST, various events have been put together. These include Indigenous Poetry Performance (Children Participation), Drama, Arts and Crafts Competition, Essay. Writing as well as Drawing and Painting Competitions. Other events include indigenous Cuisines and Traditional Wrestling (Junior Category), the Book Fair, the Cultural Market and the Colloquium components.

8. Gentlemen, the NAFEST 2016 is well planned to harness the potentials inherent in Nigeria’s cultural industries. For instance, the Cultural Market Segment of NAFEST is designed to showcase cultural products and services, ranging from consumer to utilitarian products. This is a way of encouraging Nigerians to be creative and resourceful in our quest for development.

9. Similarly, the Indigenous Cuisine will examine indigenous culinary culture of the nation and encourage our people to look inward towards marketing and packaging of Nigerian food to the international market, thereby creating huge employment opportunities.

10. Gentlemen, I urge you to sensitize the good people of Nigeria on the objectives of the festival, which include:
– Promoting our much cherished values of understanding, peaceful coexistence, love and national unity

– Using Culture to galvanize the citizenry towards achieving our national aspirations and growing our GDP

– Job creation and economic empowerment
– Celebrating our collective heritage

– Talent hunt

– The display of creativity as well as exchange of ideas, skills and indigenous technologies

11. Considering the feelers which came out of the last CEC meeting held in Uyo, Akwa Ibom, the various consultations and interactions thereafter and given the antecedents of our host state in hosing cultural events and high level national and international events, I have no doubt in assuring you that the Government and the good people of Akwa Ibom State are fully prepared to host the nation from Oct. 2nd to Oct. 9th 2016.

12. I therefore commend and thank the Executive Governor of our host State, His Excellency Udom Emmanuel, and members of his Executive Council for accepting to host the national unity forum, NAFEST, and for all they have done so far towards giving us a successful festival. I equally commend all the stakeholders at both the state and national levels, particularly the members of staff of the National Council for Arts and Culture, for all the preparations made so far.

13. Of course, I will also like to commend the media. Essentially, events like NAFEST are media events. If they are not reported, they are as good as not holding at all. I have no doubt that the media will once again cooperate with us to ensure a fantastic festival.

14. I thank you all